BRENDAN RODGERS insists any racial abuse will only serve to inspire his Liverpool side in tonight’s Europa League clash with Zenit St Petersburg.
The Reds are braced for a hostile reception at the Petrovsky Stadium for the first leg of their last-32 showdown with the Russian champions.
Zenit supporters group Landscrona issued a manifesto urging their club not to sign any non-white players, and there are fears that Liverpool’s black trio of Glen Johnson, Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom will be targeted by home fans.
If those concerns are realised, Rodgers has told his players to leave Spanish referee Carlos Carballo and UEFA to take the appropriate action.
The manager is confident that whatever happens in the stands tonight won’t unsettle his side as they look to take control of the tie.
“I didn’t consider leaving anyone behind,” he said.
“These are young players who have experienced this in their lives before.
“We’ll go into the sporting arena and hopefully everyone from football – UEFA, the referee and the officials – can all support any player it may affect.
“I didn’t think of it too much because these are players who want to play. Some are young players wanting to progress in the game, while Glen is a top international footballer who has experienced lots of things.
“They understand – the likes of Raheem has been through situations like this before.
“No-one in life wants to see anyone come under any scrutiny like that. We hope it’s a game where the officials and UEFA can take care of all that side.
“We want the talk to be about two good teams and a good game. If anything untoward happens, us as a group will always do everything we can to support the player or players that may happen to.
“If there’s an issue in the game it will be something that will very much unite the group.”
At today’s team meeting ahead of the game Rodgers will talk to his players about what they could encounter at the Petrovsky Stadium and how they should handle it. The Northern Irishman will underline the importance of them keeping their cool.
“We still have a few meetings with them to go and I will make reference to it,” he added.
“We have players who maybe it could affect. But we are here for football. We’re hopeful it will be a terrific game and that anything that goes on outside of that will be taken care of.
“This is a social issue, it’s not just a football issue. We as a football club and in Britain over the past 20 odd years, a lot of work has gone on outside of football to prevent racism. No matter what your colour, race or creed – everyone is equal.”
The only absentees from a full strength squad are Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho, who are cup tied.